Friday, 9 November 2012

20+ Fun Activities To Do in the SNOW!

Need some help to start planning your outdoor play experiences for the children in your day home? Click on "outdoor play" below to enter a website featuring some great outdoor play ideas:


Monday, 22 October 2012

Pumpkin Science

Learn about pumpkins from a scientific point of view. Ask a question, conduct an investigation, get information, think about what you have observed, and reach a conclusion. Here are some questions to investigate on the interesting topic of PUMPKINS:

Are the seeds scattered randomly within a pumpkin or arranged in some sort of pattern?
Do BIG pumpkins have larger seeds than smaller pumpkins?
Is there anything in a pumpkin which lines up with the creases on the outside?
What does a pumpkin weigh?
How much does a pumpkin seed weigh?
How many seeds does a pumpkin contain?
Do all pumpkins have the same number of seeds?
Can you tell which side of the pumpkin was against the ground? How? Does the stem help you figure it out?
Will pumpkins float in water? If they do, will they float stem up, stem down, or stem sideways?
Can pumpkin seeds be sorted into groups?
How thick is the skin of a pumpkin?
Do birds eat pumpkin seeds?
Will pumpkin seeds grow if planted right away?
What stories can you find about pumpkins?
Where did pumpkins come from originally?
What other plants do we eat that are related to pumpkins?

Make a book to record your questions and answers!


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Pumpkin Puzzles

Using real pumpkins, let the children draw faces with washable Crayola markers. The ink will wipe off easily with a wet cloth. After a few days, you can make a pumpkin puzzle or "shape sorter."

Open the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds. Let the children help!

Cut a good sized square, circle, rectangle, heart, and triangle out of the pumpkin. Allow the children to find the correct hole to put their piece back into the pumpkin!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Halloween Sand Table

Make a sand table by purchasing a bag of play sand at Toys R Us or Rona, or Home Depot. You can find different colors of sand as well. Pour the sand into a large plastic storage container. Clear ones are best. Add some water to keep the dust down if necessary.

Make your sand interesting by adding foam pumpkins or metallic confetti pumpkins. The children can hunt for the pumpkins by digging with shovels, using sifters, and funnels. Give them magnifying glasses to look closely at the pumpkins.

Make it a math activity by counting the pumpkins. You could also tape a number strip to the floor or table so the children can place a pumpkin on each number to help with counting.

Look at the dollar stores to find more items to add every two days. Spider rings, fingernails, silk leaves, skeletons/skulls, black and orange pom-poms, or nuts in a shell.

Spooky Halloween Sand Table:
You could put your sand table in a darker area and add Halloween lights above or give the children small flashlights or lights that strap onto their head and shine down where they are digging in the sand. Flashlights will work better in a darker area. Add glow in the dark skeleton bones, plastic spiders to the sand, rubber snakes.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp                              

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 1/2 cups pancake mix
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup pumpkin
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
raisins or chocolate chips to decorate the face

Combine pancake mix, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add milk, pumpkin, vegetable oil, vanilla, and eggs. Blend together until smooth. Fry on griddle or skillet. Then have kids decorate with raisins or chocolate chips to make a jack-o-lantern face! Try other food items to make faces too.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Positive Behaviour Strategies


We are more inclined to resist if someone tells us no. Sometimes when adults are frustrated with children’s behaviour they say no. Children resist and ask “Why?” The goal of the following strategies is to create cooperation and reduce resistance by replacing no and redirecting behaviour successfully.

1, The Make-A-Big Deal Strategy:
Practice noticing children behaving appropriately and then point it out to them.
“I saw you share blocks. That was thoughtful.”
“I heard you solving the problem by taking turns”
“I noticed you helping your friend.”
“You worked hard at putting the toys away.”
When we give attention, thanks, specific and effective recognition we tell children that we care and make them feel proud of their contributions. By focusing on positive behaviours we reinforce those behaviours. The behaviour that gets our positive attention will grow. But we need  practice to notice children when they are behaving appropriately.

2. Replace With Something Appropriate Strategy
When children are behaving inappropriately, redirect/replace it by asking the children to do something appropriate. “Show me how to arrange the blocks by size.” Instead of saying “no” or “don’t do that”, tell the child what to do.
For example: Instead of saying “don’t run”, say “we walk indoors” or “come tiptoe behind me.”

3. The Choice Strategy
When we let children choose it makes them feel that they are in control. They will be more willing to cooperate. Give children two choices and both choices should be positive and acceptable.
“It is time to clean up. Would you like to put away blocks or trucks?”
At snack time, “I am serving fruit for snack. Would you like an apple or a banana?”

4. The When/Then Strategy:
“When you wash your hands, then you can have a snack.”
When there are too many toys on the floor: “When you put some toys away, then you can bring other toys out.”
When/then strategy communicates expectations. When children know what is expected of them they are mopre willing to cooperate. Caution: when using this strategy make sure your expectations are age and developmentally appropriate and respectful of the child.

Source: Young Children, July 2011, National Association for the Education of Young Children

Monday, 14 May 2012

Open-Ended Play in Action

Click on the following youtube link to watch Scrapstore Playpods in which children use their creativity to explore the open-ended items provided:
Scrapstore Playpods in Action

Consider adding some of these items to your outdoor play area to make outdoor time creative and fun.

Outdoor Activities to Inspire Open Ended Play:

Nature Bracelet
Before going outdoors with your child, wrap a piece of masking tape to his wrist, sticky side up.   As you explore, help him attach colorful leaves, flowers, and other interesting discoveries to his bracelet.  When done, take off the nature bracelet.  Display on a bulletin board, shelf, or wall.

Take a walk to the back of the house and ask your children to guess which room is behind each window.  If possible, lift your children so the guess can be confirmed.  Hang pictures or art work on a window and go outside to see them!  Follow any cues that the children give for ways to expand this game.

Pretend Car Wash
Help your children set up a day home car wash.   Give them a bucket of warm, soapy water and a cloth or sponge, and let them wash the riding toys.   They may need help to use the hose to rinse everything when they are finished. Follow any suggestions that the children offer for self-directed play.

Rope Games
Lay a long rope in a zigzag pattern in the grass or on your deck.  See if your child can walk on the rope. Lay the rope in a straight line like a tightrope and have your child hold out his arms to balance himself as he walks.  With the rope still lying straight, ask your child to think of how many ways he can go over it: walk across it, hop over it (on one or two feet), jump across it, crawl across it, or any other way he can think of!

Bubble Fun
Make a bubble wand by cutting two plastic drinking straws in half, then taping the four pieces together. Blowing through the straws will send lots of tiny bubbles in many directions.  Take time to dedicate each group of bubbles to someone you love, or give each bubble group a name of its own as soon as it is created.  Follow any cues that the children give for ways to expand the fun!

Shadow Tracing
Go outside with your child on a sunny day. If your child will stand still long enough, have a peer trace the shadow on the sidewalk or driveway. Have him change positions, then trace his shadow again. Make several tracings, then see if your child can fit his shadow back inside the tracings. Follow any cues that the children give for ways to expand this game. For a fun alternative, trace his shadow on a big sheet of newsprint or other paper. Let him finger-paint his shadow or color it with crayons or markers.

Knowledge of what the body can do begins with learning to move it in different ways and at different paces.  Encourage your toddler to walk in different ways with you--with high marching steps, with big striding steps, etc.  Follow any cues that your toddler gives for ways to play this game.  Use music of varying tempos to play the game.  Try the game in shoes and then barefoot and talk about the difference.

Wet Footprints
This is an easy outdoor activity that provides a fun way to learn about the feet and the length of stride. Cut the paper bags at the seam so that they can be spread out flat.  Step into the water with bare feet and walk across the paper bag, leaving footprints.  Watch as they evaporate and disappear.  Do this activity on the pavement on a warm (but not too hot) day and compare the stride of walking to running;  or repeat the activity making hand prints;  or try to cover the entire page before the prints evaporate; or challenge your child to find other objects outside that they can use to make prints. Follow any cues that the children give for ways to expand the fun!

Clothesline Art Show
Pick a day and time for the show at least a week ahead, so everyone has time to make some art. Invite parents and friends to the show. If you make paper invitations, get creative right from the start. Glue cut-out letters on a paper plate, finger paint on a grocery bag, or circle letters on a page of the newspaper. When the invitations are ready, deliver them. Then get started on your art!
The Show - this is the easy part. Just hang the clothesline between two trees or porch posts (have a backup place indoors in case of rain). Get the snacks ready. Hang your art work with the clothespins. When the guests arrive, serve the snacks, and bask in the talent of the day home artists!

High Space/Low Space
Go outside with the children and talk together about the space around us. Distinguish between high space up in the sky, low space (down on the ground), and medium space (in the middle). What living things move in these spaces? Ask the children how they would move in a high space (like a bird), in low space (crawling like a bug or snake), and middle space (animals with four legs). Experiment with dance movements exploring the space above and below. Follow any cues that the children give for ways to expand the fun!

 One Man Band
Find things that make noise found around the house: bells, beans, milk bottle tops, pan lids, bicycle horns, harmonica, spoons, chains, plastic bottles, whistle, homemade drums, tambourine. See how creative you can be in the search. The idea is for you to become the instrument. As you move around banging your knees together, wiggling your head, and shaking your feet, music will be made! Here are some ideas:
 •Mouth—blow a harmonica, whistle, glass bottle, recorder, or kazoo.
•Neck—hang bells, use string to hang a drum, xylophone, or tambourine.
•Under the arm—a bike horn tied to your upper arm so when you press your arm to your side a honking sound is made.
 •Waist—drum, xylophone, small pots, or metal objects tied together.
•Elbow and wrist—tie on small bells.
•Hands—shaking a rattle, playing drums.
•Knees—tie things to clash against each other like foil plates, cymbals, saucepan lids, or small tins filled with dried beans.
 •Ankles—tie bells, jingles, or a rattle.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

10 Reasons Kids Need Fresh Air

Our accreditation standard 1.6 states: "Children [should] have scheduled daily opportunities for outdoor play in a safe, stimulating and developmentally appropriate environment."

We understand as providers that this is the expectation, but sometimes it is nice to read something that clearly explains the benefits of outdoor play.

10 Reasons Kids Need Fresh Air

  1. Stronger bones and lower cancer risk: Today's "indoor kids" don't get enough sun and are becoming Vitamin D deficient, causing health risks.
  2. Trimmer and more healthy children: An hour of play a day is what doctors say is a basic tool in the effort to ward off childhood obesity and diabetes.
  3. Improved eyesight: Recent studies find that children who get outdoor time have less nearsightedness and need for eye glasses.
  4. Less depression and hyperactivity: Outdoor time in natural settings (even tree-lined streets) soothes kids and lowers their need for medications.
  5. Longer attention spans:Children who stare at TV and video games all day have less patience and shorter attention spans.
  6. Better at making friends: Children playing together outdoors relate directly with one another, create games together, choose sides and improve their "people" skills.
  7. More creative: Outdoor kids are more likely to use their own imaginations, inventions and creativity while playing.
  8. Less "acting out" at home and school: Getting children away from TV violence and video games helps them see that violent behavior does not always solve problems.
  9. Measurably better grades in school: The healthy bodies and minds that come with outdoor play are better able to do well in school.
  10. A longer lifespan and healthier adult life: Doctors estimate that sedentary and obese children lose three to five years from their life expectancy.
A child who spends time outdoors breathes healthier air (than indoors), learns to see the wonders of nature, climbs tress, has more fun and learns a deeper respect for wildlife and natural surroundings.

(Adapted from: "Parents: 10 Reasons kids need fresh air" by Kevin Coyle

So what are you waiting for? Grab your shoes, hats, and sunscreen and head outside - it will do you AND the children good!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Rainbow Rice

To make rainbow rice to play with, start by gathering what you will need. Rubbing alcohol, food coloring, uncooked rice, 3 glass bowls, paper towels, plates/cookie sheets to dry rice on and a large bowl or rubbermaid container. Buy a very large bag of rice to ensure you have enough for several children to play with.


Pour 1-2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol into glass bowl. Add 1-2 drops of food coloring.

Add uncooked white rice. Mix for about 30 seconds.

Spoon rice out of liquid.

Place rice on a piece of paper towel to dry. Takes a couple of hours to dry completely when spread out thin.

Mix more colors.

red + blue = purple
blue + yellow= green
red + yellow = orange

 Start with a big bowl/container of white rice
 Add a new color of rice each day until you have all the colors of the rainbow!

Put rice in a large plastic rubbermaid container to play. Add scoops, clear plastic bottles, funnels, measuring spoons, soup ladles, and mixing spoons. Let the fun begin! Do not eat.
(You can color uncooked dry pasta this way too. Add it to crafts)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Storing Outdoor Play Materials

Well, now that you have reviewed your inventory of outdoor materials, it is time to make sure that they are organized and available to the children so that they are easily accessible and quick to clean up.

When it comes to organizing outdoor toys, the same strategies that you would use inside also apply for outside. I grew up with the saying: "A place for everything and everything in its place" and when you assign a specific home for toys, they are more likely to be put away. There are many options for outdoor toy storage, and it is best if things are stored in a covered area away from the rain/snow. If you have a garage, that's great, but under the deck or patio works, too. You can also purchase outdoor storage containers that are normally used for deck storage, but also work great for outdoor play items.

Here are a few ideas for outdoor storage that you can adapt for your own situation:

The most important thing to remember is to label your containers - this helps at clean up time. You can purchase plastic luggage tags and slide a piece of paper inside to label bins. There are also many different types of labels available - some can even be written on with chalk and then erased if you change what's in the container. Make sure whatever type of label you do choose will work indoors and outdoors, depending on where your storage is.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on containers, either. Dollar stores, second-hand stores, Walmart, and Superstore all have a variety of inexpensive baskets and bins available. Make sure that you know what types and sizes of baskets you will need BEFORE you buy any - there is nothing more frustrating that spending money on things that you don't need or don't fit on your shelves.

And remember, even toddlers can be taught how to put toys away. Once you have things organized, spend some time teaching the children where everything belongs, and practice putting items away. It may take a few days of guidance from you, but once they learn where everything goes it will help things stay tidy in your outdoor play space and keep things more sane for you.

Have some outdoor storage ideas to share? Leave a comment and share it with our readers!

Happy organizing!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Outdoor Play Materials

Despite the occasional snowfall, the winter months are now behind us and spring is in the air. This is a great time to take inventory of your outdoor materials available for play. This list is certainly not limited to what is mentioned - be creative with what you offer children to play with and watch their imaginations grow! Most of these items can be easily found at the Dollar Store, Goodwill, or Walmart at a reasonable cost.

Gardening: children's gardening tools, child sized rakes, a variety of seeds, planters or pots, watering cans, gardening gloves.

Natural Materials: pine cones, sea shells, stones, leaves, seed pods, moss

Water and Sand: hoses, spray bottles, sprinklers, turkey basters, paint brushes, cars, trucks, buckets, cups, bowls, shovels, sifters, funnels, sponges, boats, scoops, muffin tins, squeeze bottles, medicine droppers, soup ladle, strainer, containers of various sizes.

Art/Painting: big pieces of paper, foam brushes, rollers, sponges, easel, paint brushes, paint, markers, chalk, bingo dabbers.

Sculpting: clay, playdough, wet sand or mud, cornstarch goop, accessories like straws, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc.

Dramatic Play: boxes, small tent or blankets, play house, toy kitchen set, tool set, dress up clothes, dishes, play food.

Gross Motor: balls of different sizes and materials, tricycles, riding toys, bean bags, hoola hoops, small basket ball net, bowling set, parachute, skipping ropes, bubble wands, bubble solution.

Of course you need to make sure that the materials you provide are age appropriate and that you are adequately supervising the children while they play. If you have a variety of age groups in your dayhome or family, divide your outdoor space into different areas, and distribute the materials according to age. Make sure that some activities are done all together, such as the kitchen play set, a small tent, and parachute games.

With these types of materials available, you will never have to hear "there is nothing to do outside" and your children will benefit from fresh air, exercise, and an expanded view of her or his world.

Coming in our next post....organizing your outdoor space and materials!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Building A Routine

Whether you are a parent or a provider, having a solid routine for your day is important for the children in your care, and for your own sanity!

Here's an article by Kristen Schulz (CCC Teacher) who discusses the whys and hows of routines for children:

"The following article will guide you through the routine process, explaining what a routine is, when a routine might be useful in your life, and finally how to build one yourself. My hope is that you will find comfort in knowing that many parents and families go through struggles and there is a way to help your children gain independence and structure without losing your mind.

The “Super Nanny” Jo Frost says, “A routine provides a clear structure for daily life.” (p.44) When you think about all of the things you have to get done during the day, it can be very overwhelming. As a parent you have to get all of that stuff done, but with your children following close behind. This is when having a plan of action can help.

If you know that the kids have to be dressed and ready to go by 8 am, your plan starts when they wake up. How can you structure the time so that it is logical and orderly for everyone involved? Maybe it would look like this: Wake the kids at 7 am and bring them to the table where they will eat. After breakfast it’s time to clean up. Bring the kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and face, brush teeth, and get dressed. Once they are clean and dressed, it’s time for shoes and out the door.

If this is what you do every morning then your kids understand what is going to be happening and they can feel safe. According to the article Routines to the Rescue, Parents Magazine, 1999, “Routines give kids a sense of control. When kids can anticipate what’s going to happen, it makes them feel safe and builds a sense of trust in their parents and their environment.”

You might think this is going to be too hard. Let’s look at what the experts say. According to a workshop from 4-C entitled Everyday Magic:

“Children thrive on routines, they like their lives to be clear and predictable, and enjoy the security of comfortable repetition. Routines establish trust in children and show them that their world is a safe place… Young children are not able to plan in advance. Often, as adults, we get frustrated at our children for acting up during these times. However, try to think what it would be like if you did not know or understand why things around you were happening. Picture how you would feel if someone just loaded you into a car and didn’t explain where you were going or why. You would be anxious too!”

We should stop once in awhile and put ourselves in their shoes to see if what we are asking them makes sense within the time and limits of their abilities. We have high expectations for our children, and we need to make sure that the expectation makes sense so as to provide learning. “The easiest way for children to learn is through repetition. Consistent routines teach children how to do necessary things like eating, bathing, tooth brushing, etc.” (Everyday Magic)

Jo Frost has provided her readers with this advice, “Routines build consistency into family life. You also need an agreed upon a set of rules. Before you can insist on certain standards of behavior from your child, you have to decide what is acceptable and what is not. Then you have to stick to your guns. If you’re always bending the rules and moving the goalposts, your child won’t have the first clue of what he should be doing and won’t take you seriously.”(p.47)

This brings us to actually building a routine. Have a plan for what you want accomplished and talk it over with your children if they are old enough. Giving them some control over how they will be moving through their day will provide them with an opportunity to be an active participant in the routine itself. “Routines should be respectful. Tell the child what you are going to do before you do it. Treat them as respectfully as you would an adult.” Elaine Goodwin also says, “Give children a warning. About ten minutes before you need them to do the routine, let them know. This prepares the children for what is coming to give them time to wrap-up what they are doing.” Then you have to guide them through it especially at first so they understand the expectations.

Jo Frost says, “You’re talking through their day. But what you are not doing is offering them lots of choices.” Examples, “Let’s put on your shoes,” not, “Will you put on your shoes?” “When you have put on your shoes we can go to the park,” not, “If you put on your shoes, you can go to the park.” “The difference in the way you say things may be very subtle, but the difference in the results are not.” (p.50) Stick with the routine and have fun at the same time says Elaine Goodwin. “Make your routines fun! Your child has to eat and sleep anyway, why not use this time to teach your child and bond with them. You will find that doing so not only improves the child’s behavior during these necessary routines, but also helps them to feel better prepared for life.”

Some children are going to be able to pick up on the routines right away and others will need time and consistency. If you are finding that the routine is harder than it was before, maybe your child could use a visual reminder of the routine. Children think in pictures instead of words, and if you are getting frustrated saying the same thing over and over let the routine chart be your guide. “Visual cues are great because kids learn to tune out verbal instruction,” says Dr. Abrams. “With a chart, there’s less emotion, because it’s harder to argue with an inanimate object.” (Parents 2008)

A chart should be simple and organized so the children can follow it. Have the kids help to create it to include them in the process. You can use simple drawing, pictures from magazines, or take digital pictures of the kids doing the routine themselves. Then when they ask, “What’s next?” you can say, “Look at the chart.” Just remember, you can build a routine for any time of the day: mealtime, bedtime, hand washing, teeth brushing, bath time, clean up, dressing and undressing, etc. Just work on one at a time and watch your life go from absolutely crazy to only slightly crazy."


Memon, Reshma, You make Me Want to Shout, Parents, December 2008

Frost, Jo, How to Get The Best From Your Children, Hyperion, New York, 2005

Miller Kase, Lori, Routines to the Rescue, Parents, February 1999

Goodwin, Elaine, Why should I have a Routine for my Child,4-C Parent Educator, Dekalb, IL

Unknown Routines: Everyday Magic,4-C , DeKalb, IL

Monday, 26 March 2012

Easy Spring Blossoms

It's going to be a few more weeks before things start to green up in Edmonton. Try an easy painting project with your little ones this week and add some spring color to your walls. This activity is great for children 2 1/2 and up.

To start, draw some simple spring shapes on a large piece of paper - we used finger-painting paper and a black permanent marker.
Using finger paint, add swirls of different color paint all over the piece of paper. We used orange, yellow, blue, purple, and red.
Have the children mix the colours together with their fingers, spreading the paint evenly over the different images. Be careful not to mix the paint too much, or you will end up with brown flowers and butterflies! We listened to Vivaldi's Four Seasons while we painted and the children loved to move their fingers to the music. We talked about the different colours they made by mixing the paint together, and they tried different ways to make designs and patterns in the paint.
Allow the paint to dry thoroughly and then cut out the pictures.

We added some construction paper stems and grass to complete our spring blooms. This was a fun activity and everyone really enjoyed it. Now our dayhome walls are a bit more spring-like, even if outside isn't quite there yet!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Re-Thinking Time Out

If you are still using time out to "punish" a child for "bad behaviour" then please read further and try to open your mind and change your ways. This is a humiliating experience for children and rarely achieves the outcome the adult had in mind.

Think instead of using the inappropriate behaviour as a teaching opportunity to teach a child a new behaviour through discussion. Show the child what they should do when this problem arises. Maybe they should use words to tell another child they are playing with that toy, rather than grab it back. Teach the words to say. Adjust the level of language to the child's age and development.

Children need to know that they have your support to get through these situations and will help with the other child who also needs to be taught how to ask, or wait for a turn. You may have to explain to an older child that a younger child does not know he/she must wait for a turn and has to learn this. Teach how to compromise and give a younger child a few blocks of his own so he won't take yours.

Model staying calm and in control for children. Let them know you are there to listen, and help. This calms a child substantially to know you will be there.

Of course, you will still have screaming red faced crying children who flail themselves about and aggressively attack others. At this time, you will need more patience and will have to dig deeper to stay calm. Give the child some space to let it out. This is natural and anger has built to a point where it must come out. Stay quiet and do not upset the child further with insensitive comments. Let the child know he/she is still loved and hold the child when they come to you.

Find a way to solve the problem while the child is upset to distract yourself from anger. Please do not walk away or isolate a child in a room - there are many things wrong with this approach. Keep them close, in view, and touch them gently if they will allow it. The child is not intentionally trying to make you angry. It's all about their own emotion. Keep your emotions in check. When the child is ready, talk about feelings and name them, offer an alternative/compromise that is acceptable. You are still in charge of the situation, you are just recognizing that the child has something to learn. You are the child's teacher.

If you give in at this moment you must know that next time there will be a bigger tantrum. Think of this process not as a power struggle, but an opportunity to discuss and solve a problem that leaves you both feeling good. Chances are, the number of incidents will decrease when new skills to have needs/wants met are learned. It's a process that takes time.